May 31, 2008

The desired-situation-question

goal-2007-749865.jpgThe desired-situation-question is one of the most essential types of solution-focused questions. This is the question with which the coach invites the client to describe how he or she would like the situation to become. The coach encourages the client patiently and curiously to describe the desired situation. This question shows the goal-orientedness of the solution-focused approach. The desired situation gets described in terms of concrete, positive results. A few ways in which the question can be posed are: "What does your desired situation look like?", "How do you want your situation to become?", "What would you like instead of the problem?", and "How will you notice things will have become better?'. With the desired-situation-question the attitude of the coach is important. This attitude is encouraging, curious and patient. De coach has a large set of questions available to help the client describe the situation more and more concretely. Here are some examples:
 What do you want to achieve?
 What do you want instead of the problem?
 How do you want things to become better?
 What do you want to be better?
 How do you want your situation to become?
 What result do you want?
 How would you like the situation to look like?
 What does you 10 on the scale look like?
 What will be different when the problem is solved?
 How will that help?
 What would be the advantage?
 What would be good about that?
 What would be the benefit if that happens?
 How will that be an improvement?
 How will that help you?
 For whom will that be an advantage?
 For whom will that be an improvement?
 What would be the advantage for other people?
 How will that help others?
 Suppose... the problem is solved .. what will be better?
 What can you do when that has been achieved?
 What could you do when the problem would not be there?
 What could .... do when the problem would be solved?
 How will other people notice things will have become better?
 How will you know you will have done enough?
 If ... would see it, how would (s)he know the difference?
 That sounds good!
 Aha, I can imagine you want to achieve that!

May 27, 2008

The Coping Question

Solution-focused coaches use a specific kind of question that works well when people really have a hard time and can barely find the energy to do something about their problems. This type of questions is called the coping question (Lipchik, 1988). When normal strategies to solve problems don't seem to work anymore you can try this question. An example of a situation in which you can use the coping question is when your client says he or she is now at a zero on the scale (see the scaling question). The basic form of the question is: "How do manage to keep going?" But there are many other ways of phrasing the question. Here are some examples of coping questions:

  • What keeps you going under such difficult circumstances?
  • How do you manage to deal with such difficult situations each day?
  • What helps you to keep going even though things are really hard?
  • How can you explain to yourself how you have been able to do so well while the circumstances are so hard?
  • It is admirable how you have been able to keep on going under such difficult circumstances.... how did you do that?
  • How did you manage to cope before you gave up?

The coping question helps people in difficult situations to find new energy to keep on dealing with their problems. By using the coping question you help people to become aware that they in fact are managing, at least to some extent... This helps them to see that they are still able to do some things well and that their energy has not faded completely. By exploring how they do cope they can become more aware of what it is exactly that keeps them going. What is still so worthwhile for them to get out of bed each morning and to face the day? By becoming more aware of this you will see, nine times out of ten, that the motivation and hope of this person will strengthen almost immediately.

May 23, 2008

Sparkling moment

A nice exercise to start a training or workshop with is the SPARKLING MOMENT exercise.The instruction for this exercise is:

Form duo's. Tell each other about a fulfilling moment you have recently experienced in your work (a sparkling moment). The person who listens to the story encourages the other person until a lively description of what happened in the sparkling moment has emerged. Take 5 minutes per person.

Afterwards people you ask people to tell how it was for them to do this exercise. Here is a list of the things people normally say:
  • "Fun to do!"
  • "It gives you energy, it brings you in good mood right away and you're active right away."
  • "It helps you realize that there actually are things that are going well."
  • "At first, it was hard to find an example but when I found one, I relived the situation completely."
  • "This way, it is very easy to make contact with each other."
  • "It is both fun to tell about your own sparkling moment and to listen to the sparkling moment of the other person."
  • 'It makes me become more aware of what is important to me in my work."
  • "It helps me find new ideas about how I can have fun and fulfillment in my work more often."

May 21, 2008

Doing the best we can right now

"All clients know what is best for them; and all clients are doing the best they can right now under very difficult circumstances. I cannot expect anything more of anyone, including myself, but that we do the best we can right now and hope for the best in the future."
~Insoo Kim Berg (1994), source, p218

Also read: Don't focus on non-verbal behavior too much

May 17, 2008

Every time we consciously focus our attention .....

I was surprised by how interesting I found The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (James H. Silberman Books) (see my earlier post). It grabbed my interest right away with a description of the work by Paul Bach-y-Rita a great pioneer in the field of the neuroplasticity. He has demonstrated many times the process of SENSORY SUBSTITUTION: when one of our senses is damaged, another one can sometimes take it over for it.

Fast writing

A nice technique which helps people to organize their thoughts and come up with interesting ideas is the exercise Fast writing which I once found in the book Accidental Genius: Revolutionize Your Thinking Through Private Writing (2000). This exercise can both be used individually and in groups.
In this personal writing technique you write for 10 minutes without interruption and with worrying about grammatical or spelling mistakes. In short: write what you think. if you use the exercise in a team it is important to agree that other people don't get to read what you have written. Writing on for 10 minutes is harder than it seems at first. When you get stuck and you don't know what to write anymore you can use attention shifters. These are questions that may help you find new perspectives and counters to help you find new things to write about. A few examples of attention shifters are: 'What is the most interesting thing I have written until now?', 'What would a wise person say about this?' or 'What would be a completely different way of approaching this topic?'’
When people do this exercise, afterwards they are often surprised by how much they have been able to produce within only 10 minutes. While they are writing, you can often suddenly see a smile appearing on their faces. When you ask them afterwards what that smile was about, they usually say things like: ‘I suddenly had a magnificent idea' or 'I suddenly found a completely new way to approach my problem'.
Like I said, fast writing can be done both individually and in groups. When a team gets stuck on a topic for instance, you can invite them to write 10 minutes about it and to exchange any ideas this may have led to afterwards. You probably will have some interesting things to talk about.

May 14, 2008

Self-directed neuroplasticity

The book I mentioned yesterday is about neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the process of how the brain continuously changes as a consequence of experiences. Neuroplasticity goes so far that it is possible for the brain to relocate brain activity associated to a certain function from one area to another, for instance in the case of brain damage. Read the book if you want to know more. Neuroplasticity is not something on which we have no influence. On the contrary, we can consciously influence it. The possibilities are inspiring. Whatever we focus our attention on has its consequences in terms of how the brain changes. That is why it may be wise to make deliberate choices about what you focus your attention on. Read more about this process of so-called self-directed neuroplasticity in THIS POST by Stephanie West Allen at Idealawg.

May 13, 2008

Recommended book: The Brain That Changes Itself

I am reading this book now:  The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (James H. Silberman Books). It has got a five star rating on amazon from dozens of customers and not for nothing. The books is fascinating. It provides great support for the growth mindset about which I have written so often and it deepens our understanding of it.

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